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Legis Housing and Planning Round up - March 2018

March 16, 2018

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Put 10 May 2018 in your calendars. With major government consultations now open until 10 May 2018, and Halifax reporting that average house prices fell 0.7 per cent in the quarter to February, there has never been a better opportunity and imperative to have your say on the future of housing and planning policy.


Open Consultations


The National Planning Policy Framework – the consultation on the new NPPF closes on 10 May 2018 with the Government intending to produce a finalised NPPF in the summer of 2018. The Government has also proposed that there will be six-month transition period from the publication of the new NPPF. During this period development plans will be assessed using the old NPPF, after which the new NPPF will come into effect.


On 5 March, the Government published the following documents:


  • National Planning Policy Framework: consultation proposals

  • National Planning Policy Framework: draft text for consultation

  • Draft planning practice guidance

  • Housing Delivery Test: draft measurement rule book


Earlier this month, Housing minister Dominic Raab has said he is “personally very keen” on financial penalties being imposed on developers which fail to deliver promised affordable housing or infrastructure-related planning obligations.


Developer Contributions - the Government is seeking views on a series of reforms to the existing system of developer contributions in the short term in a consultation which closes on 10 May 2018. These reforms will benefit the local authorities who administer them, developers who pay them and the communities in which development takes place. 


Law Commission Consultations


Following the Government's consultation last year into leasehold reform, on 22 February 2018 the Law Commission has opened a call for evidence on Commonhold as an alternative tenure to leasehold, which will look at why the tenure has failed to gain popularity and what changes can be made to the current law to make it an attractive and workable alternative to residential leasehold. The call for evidence closes on 19 April 2018.


CLG Select Committee Inquiries


Despite deadlines for submissions being passed, the following Select Committee inquiries are still open and accepting written submissions:


  • Long term funding of adult social care inquiry (announced 23 January 2018. Deadline for written submissions is 7 March 2018) into the approach taken by the Green Paper on the long-term funding and provision of adult social care.

  • Land value capture inquiry (announced 19 October 2017. Deadline for written submissions is 2 March 2018) into the effectiveness of current land value capture methods.


Government responses and publications


Housing White Paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ and ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ - on the 5 March 2018 the Government published a summary of responses to these consultations and the Government’s view on the way forward.


Independent Review of Build Out - Sir Oliver Letwin has written a letter of 9 March to the Secretary of State on the progress of his review into build out. He is required to explain the “significant gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned in areas of high housing demand, and make recommendations for closing it” by the Autumn 2018. Responses to the ‘Planning for the right homes in the right places’ consultation are being fed into Sir Oliver’s review.


Look ahead


Social Housing Green Paper - the Government intends to publish the Social Housing Green Paper in early 2018. Little further detail has been provided on timing but the paper is expected to contain:


  • Safety issues following the Grenfell fire;

  • Quality of social homes;

  • Service management;

  • Tenants’ rights;

  • Tenants’ complaints procedures;

  • Placemaking and community;

  • Local economies;

  • Tackling homelessness; and

  • Tackling subletting.


New garden towns - in the Autumn Budget 2017 the Government announced it will bring together public and private capital to build five new garden towns, using appropriate delivery vehicles such as development corporations, including in areas of high demand such as the South East. Given how controversial these are likely to be, expect extensive consultation.


Ground Rents - responding to the consultation on unfair prejudices in the leasehold market, in December 2017 the Government promised to “bring forward legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows” to prohibit new residential long leases from being granted on houses, whether new build or on existing freehold houses.”


The Government will consider whether specific exemptions are appropriate (for example shared ownership houses).


In terms of existing leaseholders who find themselves with onerous ground rent liabilities, the Government is not currently proposing to legislate but will consider “measures” if necessary. It “wants to see [developers’ compensation schemes] extended to all those with onerous ground rents, including second hand buyers, and for customers to be proactively contacted.”


Help to Buy - while Sajid Javid has already written to all developers to strongly discourage the use of Help to Buy equity loans for the purchase of leasehold houses, it is likely that legislation in 2018 will prohibit Help to Buy equity loans for new purchases of leasehold houses.


Leasehold enfranchisement - look specifically for a Government consultation (in conjunction with the Law Commission) on introducing a simple prescribed formula to help owners enfranchise or extend their lease and compensate landlords.


Minimum lease term - in the pipeline may also be a minimum lease term for new long leases on flats to protect consumers from added costs where their leases fall under 80 years.


Freeholder service charges and rentcharges - expect legislation to ensure that freeholders who pay service charges can access equivalent rights as leaseholders to challenge the reasonableness of service charges and that where a freeholder pays a rentcharge, the rentcharge owner is not able to take possession or grant a lease on the property where the rentcharge remains unpaid for a short period of time.


Consultations envisaged under the 2017 Budget


Housing was one of the centrepieces to the 2017 Autumn budget, the Chancellor announcing intentions to consult on several matters:


  • Longer tenancies - the Government will consult on the barriers to landlords offering longer, more secure tenancies to those tenants who want them.

  • First-time buyer led developments - the Government will consult on a new policy whereby local authorities will be expected to permission land outside their plan on the condition that a high proportion of the homes are offered for discounted sale for first-time buyers, or for affordable rent. This will exclude land in the Green Belt.

  • Increasing housing density in urban areas - to ensure that brownfield and scarce urban land is used as efficiently as possible, the Government will consult on introducing:

    • minimum densities for housing development in city centres and around transport hubs, with greater support for the use of compulsory purchase powers for site assembly

    • policy changes to support the conversion of empty space above high street shops

    • policy changes to make it easier to convert retail and employment land into housing

    • a permitted development right to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.

  • Strengthening the Housing Delivery Test - with tougher consequences where planned homes are not being built, by setting the threshold at which the presumption in favour of development applies at 75% of housing delivery by 2020.

  • Expecting local authorities to bring forward 20% of their housing supply as small sites -  this is intended to speed up the building of new homes and support the government’s wider ambition to increase competition in the house building market.

  • Speeding up the development process by removing the exemptions from the deemed discharge rules - the Government wants to get builders on site more quickly, ensuring that development is not held back by delays in discharging planning conditions.

  • Land value uplift - in the 2017 Housing White Paper, the Government committed to respond to the CIL Review. MHCLG will launch a consultation with detailed proposals to reduce complexity and enable areas to implement a CIL more quickly.


Robert is a partner at a UK law firm with a background working as a policy researcher in David Cameron's Parliamentary Resources Unit. He was a candidate in the 2016 London Assembly elections. 


Click here to get in touch.



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